Meet the Winemaker: Giulio Armani, Denavolo, Colli Piacentini

Ciao Giulio, where are you from ? 

I am a native of the region, I was born 7 km from La Stoppa. My parents were born very close to Denavolo and I’m glad I stayed in my native region.

What do you enjoy in life ?

I like to make wine! Truly.  It’s my passion.
I also like to read, especially historical books. I like to understand, and often you find the keys by immersing yourself in history. 
I also like gastronomy.  I take real pleasure to eat in restaurants, to exchange with the chefs. I’m lucky enough to produce wines that go well with very different dishes, and I like to taste the culinary associations they create. Of course, at the moment, I can’t go to restaurants anymore, and I am sad for our restaurant owners and sommeliers friends.  I’m also annoyed by the situation.

What don’t you enjoy in life ?

I don’t like mess, noise and confusion.

GIULIO, HIS WORK, HIS VINES

When did you decide to create your own domain?

In fact, above all I wanted to buy myself a house. I was looking for an old stone house in the area and I found the one where I live today. There were several buildings to renovate. There was land around it, 30 ha, and the price was interesting.
I could see myself gardening, but gardening vines… having a few vines to make wine for my own consumption and sharing with friends and selling a few grapes. So I planted 1 ha in Cassinera. And I got a taste for it 🙂  Today I “garden” 8 ha!

What do you like about this hilly area south of Piacenza?

I like this region because it’s my native region, I feel good here. These are my roots. I have been making wine here for 40 years (this year will be my 40th winemaking year) at La Stoppa.
I saw myself settling in the region where my parents were born. When the opportunity presented itself, I didn’t let it go by.

Which vintage did you like to vinify?

I liked to vinify all of the last 40 vintages 🙂 All the ones I produced, either at La Stoppa or Denavolo. Each one has its own history, its own characteristics. Our job is to understand where we work, where our vines are planted and to produce a wine that expresses this terroir. 

GIULIO, HIS VINES, HIS PARCELS

Why did you only plant white grapes?

For me, they are the grapes best adapted to this terroir: this altitude, this limestone soil and these slopes. Before settling down, I had tasted the wines produced in the region, some neighbours produce red wines too, but I always liked them less than the whites.

Can you remind us about the grape varieties on your estate?

I work with typical grape varieties of the region.
There are varieties that are only found in this small area of the Colli Piacentini: like Malvasia di Candia Aromatica, a grape variety with a thick skin, very tannic and very aromatic, and Ortrugo, a grape variety that is not very aromatic and brings freshness to the blend due to its acidity. 
I have also planted Trebbiano, always for the acidity that I like in the wines.
Historically, we also have Marsanne. The old vineyards planted in 1975 have over 25% planted with Marsanne vines, so, quite naturally, I have replanted some on the young vines; this grape variety is interesting for the richness and roundness it brings to my wines.

I planted Sauvignon Blanc, bought in France. I really like this aromatic grape variety. It gives very good results with the cool climate of Denavolo and the limestone soils.

And finally, I have a few vines of Santa Maria which are also part of the local grape varieties that one must have in the area when one makes new plantations; But the production is very low, on 1000 vines, I produce only 550 kg.

THE WINES OF DENAVOLO

Do you adapt the vinifications to the wines in your range? 

The estate’s wines are almost all vinified in the same way. I work with white grapes that have been destemmed and crushed. During the first few days when the alcoholic fermentation is well underway, I pump over and aerate the wine well. Then, after 5 or 6 days, I let the fermentation take place without adding any oxygen.

I keep the juice under the cap and the marc, and on the lees, for a very long time. I don’t want to rack the wines before winter, so that the wines benefit from maturing on lees as long as possible.  I often rack from March or April, sometimes later for Dinavolo.  It’s the tasting that makes me decide on the right moment.

Only a part of the grapes used in the composition of Catavela is directly-pressed. These are grapes planted in a cooler area on a lower slope and the maturities are difficult to reach, so for this reason, I do a direct pressing.

Would you like to make sparkling wine?

Yes, I would love to make sparkling wine. We are lucky to have in our region the Barbera, it is a red grape variety with very little tannin and a lot of acidity. I would like to make a sparkling white Barbera.
I think it would give a very nice cuvée, and it’s a trial I’ll be doing soon, using the traditional method for sparkling wine.

When did you first produce a white wine with the whole grape maceration:  pulp and skin?

In 2001, at La Stoppa, to produce what became the Ageno. It was a trial at the time. I tasted a lot of white wines, vinified in must or others vinified with the skins. I liked very much the wines of my friend Stanco (Radikon) who unfortunately left us recently.
So I wanted to try them to see, and Elena (Pantaleoni – La Stoppa) agreed to give it a try. We harvested the last white grapes from Malvasia, Ortrugo and Trebbiano and tried them. We liked the result very much and today Ageno is understood.

When I settled down and started making wines in Denavolo, it was obvious to me that I would do the same. My father used to make wine this way;  he bought 700-800 kg of grapes every year to make his wine. My grandfather before him too, he had a little bit of land and mostly sold the grapes but the ones he kept for his consumption were vinified like that.

This was the common way of winemaking in Italy. Terroir also means perpetuating traditions.

What wines do you like to drink and what do you like in a wine? 

I really like the red French wines from the South of France (Languedoc, Rhone) with a bit of age.

I think that a well made wine is a wine that keeps well.  In this case, patience will always allow it to improve because with time, it will evolve in the bottle and gain in complexity. Unfortunately it is not always easy to keep your wines. 

You’re an artisan winemaker, do you grow anything other than vines? 

Yes!  I have some soft wheat. We have about 6 ha cultivated and today we produce flour and pasta.
The wheat is an ancient variety called “Ardito e Virgilo”, which gives a good quality wheat with small yields and which we can re-sow every year with part of the harvest.  
We have part of it transformed into pasta by a local craftsman and we sell some flour and pasta made from this wheat to the farm.

What are the specialities of the region that go well with your wines?
In antipasti, frittata with eggs and vegetables, and of course charcuterie.  We have a lot of them here and the acidity and lightness of the wines go well with them.

With Dinavolino, green asparagus with pasta or in risotto, tortelli con la ricotta e le verdure or burro e salvia (sage butter). River fish or eel.

With Dinavolo, the local cheeses, cow’s milk cheeses, matured for one or two months.

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